By Natalie Conrad
Herald Staff Writer
Warm sunny days left little need for winter coats in 2012 and set the pace for a year that will go down as one of the warmest and driest years to date.
Breaking and tying records left and right, last year was the warmest since 1931 and the sixth driest for the Clinton area.
Warmth was all around as the average mean temp for the year was 54 degrees, breaking the record of 53.7 degrees set in 1931 and far above the average of 50.1 degrees. While much of the warm weather occurred in the spring and summer, there were three record high temps in January, according to Jim Blaess, an official weather observer for the U.S. government.
It all started with a mild winter, coming off of 2011. Of all the warm months, March set the precedent for the year as the warmest March in not only Clinton, but the state as a whole, since 1879. The spring continued to heat up with warmer than normal temps in April and May as well, according to State Climatologist Harry Hillaker.
“A lot of people think when we have a really hot summer that it will be one of the warmest years, but it’s really the spring months that make a big difference,” Hillaker said. “The temperatures may not be as warm, but they are still much warmer than normal.”
In July, temps reached 100 degrees or higher five times. The highest temperature for the year was 103 degrees on July 7. This steamy month was also the second warmest since 1879 and set and tied records. Temps never reached below zero the entire year with the coldest being zero degrees on Jan. 20, according to Blaess.
“It’s really unusual for the temperatures to never go below zero,” Jim Blaess said.
Precipitation and snow were kept at bay by the warm temps and dry conditions. The largest snow of the year was 5.5 inches on Jan. 12. Snow was few and far between as 2012 marked the third longest period between snowfalls of 292 days from March 3 to Dec. 19. The record is 307 days.
As local farmers struggled to protect their crops, it was an abnormally low year for rain. Total rainfall for the year was 24.14 inches, which is 10.23 inches off of the normal 34.37 inches. It was the driest since 1988, when there was 19.5 inches.
Warmth continued to the very end of the year when temperatures reached 68 degrees on Dec. 3, tying the record set in 1970.
For the state of Iowa this marks the second warmest year since 1931, with the first seven months being warmer than normal, then settling down a bit, according to Hillaker. It also marks the 19th driest for the state with 98 of the 99 counties reporting conditions drier than usual.
What does this mean for 2013? The outcome is uncertain, since measuring weather patterns like El Nino and La Nina have often proven fruitless. Past predictions have often forecasted the opposite.
Currently the state remains in neutral, leaving the outcome of this year unpredictable, according to Hillaker.
“It’s likely after a year of hot and dry weather, it will tend to be a bit dry again and on the warm side,” Hillaker said. “At this point there are no guarantees, but it is not likely to change drastically.”